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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Jul 17, 2011 3:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

Wow, we have some really different opinions here!!!

I love Terrapin, but the later versions seem watered-down to me. As if something essential had gone out of them. A huge part of it is that I don’t care for what Brent does with it; there’s all kinds of keyboard fill that seems like frippery, and he’s way too front and center, so it becomes Christmas with Terrapin at the Piano Bar or something.

To me, 3/24/90, which Micah mentioned and which I like as a show, is a perfect example of that in Terrapin's case ... Brent simply can’t spell “restraint,” and nobody else, except maybe Phil, seems to rise to the music, so a lot of it just sounds like half-hearted heavy metal guitar runs along with those meringue-pie keyboards. To my ears, it’s both overdone and wussified.

That said, I’m sure it would have brought the chill factor to me live. I mean, I’m not saying “wussified” in comparison to, like, NOT hearing a Terrapin; just in terms of the band and what they’d done with it in earlier years.

The earlier versions ... they don’t seem thin to me at all, they seem Just Right :-) I feel that’s one song that came out of the starting gate in full-blown magnificence, rolling over everything in its path. Really, in ’77 you could throw a dart and get an epic Terrapin, so I’d have no idea which to pick as “best,” though I’m betting if I did some kind of serious study (LOL) of My Personal Opinion of Great Terrapins, I’d decide it was one in ’77. Although the early Brent years are awfully sweet for Terrapin, too. I’m fond of 11/24/79 and 11/30/79, though I don’t know how they’d hold up on an Objective Comparison to ’77 basis.

On the whole, I just reeeaaaallly like the controlled, focused and dynamic intensity of the early Terrapins, and then feel that some essential tension and transcendence goes out of it.

So, different strokes! :-)

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 17, 2011 7:06pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

Thanks for your thoughts. I think you have good taste and listening skills so I think your preference is certainly valid. We both agree there is a "different sound" between the early and late versions, but our taste as to which tastes better is inverted.

The case of Brent's keyboard parts is a good example, because I love his fripperies! I have a biased perspective because I'm a piano player myself, so I don't mind when the keys take center stage. One of the reasons I'm not much of a late-70s fan is that the last few years of Keith are pretty sad, since it seems he lost his love for the band and music. There is quite a bit of good Keith in 76 though, so I'm kind of inclined to think that the "behind the music" explanation that traces his withdrawal to Bobby and Donna being involved is likely.

Anyway, I like a lot of Brent's very elaborate playing a lot. Occasionally he overdoes it perhaps, but I'm a huge fan of his work during the last few years of his life, I think it is almost as good as 72-74 Godchaux. If it's "Christmas with Terrapin at the piano bar" I'll bake the cookies for the party.

I also think that the Elder Garcia voice is absolutely perfect for Terrapin, it never sounds right to me to hear Terrapin sung without that delicious rasp of the late years.

"The storyteller makes no choice - soon you will not hear his voice. His job is to shed light, not to master..."

That is an example of a place where the lyrics of the music "wrap back" around and refer to their own context, because listening to Terrapin now, we hear Jerry as "the storyteller" and are aware that his voice was taken from us. It sounds more fitting and suggestive when the singer sounds old & wise at that line.

I also think the pseudo-orchestral possibilities of MIDI are well-suited to Terrapin - Bob often used a nice "brass" voice during the climactic sung section, and I think the prewritten instrumental theme became much more interesting when it became an opportunity for experimenting with different synth voices. A lot of people don't like midi, but I think listening to midi-instruments is just like listening to flawed AUD tapes - you have to mentally adjust the sound so you don't notice the imperfection. Just like you stop noticing the crowd noise and 'boom' of an aud, you can learn to hear the platonic concept of an instrument instead of the sampled synth version.

It's really the jams that are the most important to me - the free jam after the composed instrumental is almost always what I'm really excited to hear, and those just don't seem to exist prior to 89. There was something deeply magical about the neoclassical rhythmic open jams that took shape after Terrapin prior to drums in the late era, there are a ton of them and each one tended to be quite unique. They are often short but very, very sweet, and represent a musical direction I wish they had pursued a lot more often.

I'm a huge Terrapin fan, I think it might be the single "best-composed" song the band ever had.

This post was modified by bkidwell on 2011-07-18 02:06:04

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Jul 17, 2011 7:00pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

Now that's interesting. Because I was also going to say that it's one song where I DON'T like Jerry's old-man voice!

I sometimes like that sound a lot, and anyway I don't like to rag on it cuz, well, he couldn't help it (OK, maybe he could, but still, voices change with age) ... but it doesn't seem right for Terrapin. It's not that it "needs" a younger voice, it just sounds "wrong" to me with the older voice in a way that other songs don't.

And that gets to something that in some way can't be escaped: the way that we, as listeners, first encountered these songs. I've noticed that any song that existed prior to my first hearing the band gets mentally "grandfathered in," so that Estimated and Shakedown and Terrapin, for instance, always "sound like" the Dead to me, but if a song comes even slightly later than the body of music that existed when I first got exposed to it -- West L.A. and Althea, for instance -- I get to vote! It's not that I couldn't select something later as a favorite; it's just that it has the possibility of NOT sounding "Right." (I'm differentiating "right" and "not right" from "favorite." For instance, I prefer later Deals to early 70s Deals, but I wouldn't say early 70s Deals aren't "right.")

It's exactly the same with the changing sound. The basic sound of "my initial era" and Everything Earlier gets an automatic pass. Obviously I have favorites, but it's all basically Dead-ish to me, psychologically speaking.

Terrapin, in its early forms, had a really profound effect on me. And I heard it a TON before the whole midi thing came out. Whereas you heard the band initially when the midi thing was in full swing, and did/do like the midi, and can also think of it as a song that references Jerry's soon-to-be-gone voice. Which is interesting and valid, for sure, but I have definitely never thought of it that way at all!

Anyway, I do think initial experiences impact the way we hear. Not what we CAN hear (in terms of, say, potentially liking midi or not), but HOW we hear and how we process what we like. If that makes sense.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 17, 2011 10:29pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

Extremely perceptive comments, AR. In this case, the proverbial nail's head has been directly struck.

The 7/18/90 Deer Creek show I linked in the grand-grand-parent to this post is the very first tape I heard that converted me to a Deadhead, I heard it a few months after the show was played. Whoa, just noticed my timezone went to midnight and that show is now TDIH! Whoohoo! Anyway...

So for me, the 1990 GD was the very first form of the band I heard that made any impression on me. I had heard a few album songs from American Beauty in some miscellaneous context and they had never done anything for me, but one night in early 91, someone played 7/18/90 for me and I was absolutely and completely floored by the music, most particularly by the Terrapin and by the space->Other One. It sounded to me exactly like brilliant classical composition translated to rock instruments, and performed BY WIZARDS, because Jerry's voice was just the epitome of the Elder Sorceror, casting a spell.

So there has never been any question for me of the "authenticity" of the late sound, because that sound defined my first powerful experience of the band, I bonded so strongly to that first bootleg that the 90 sound is just as definitive to me as any other era. As I've often said, years of subsequent listening have taught me that the 68-74 band is considerably stronger than even the 90 version, but for me, the huge and humorously fat sound of Garcia's midi-synth bassoon voice is part of the core of the GD experience.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Jul 18, 2011 2:21am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

Thanks! Btw Shakedown was released one day before my first show, so it gets to count as "pre-existing." (Phew. I just checked that. I thought I might have to revise my theory. But it still holds, albeit perhaps on a technicality.)

It was interesting that you said that "years of subsequent listening have taught me that the 68-74 band is considerably stronger than [later]." Others here have said similar things. What's interesting to me is the phrasing. Cuz psychologically, see, 68-74 would be to me as, say, 80-86 would be to you. Not technically "my era" but part of what was thought of at the time as contemporary. So the Dead of 68-74 isn't quite something I see as a history to discover, exactly (although of course it's also that), but also the Dead that characterized the Recent Canon and the tapes we had (well, no one had 60s, but early 70s circulated) and that defined the sound. Even the '60s, which I just heard on album, were more a case of "oh, bummer, music was so amazing then, and I just missed it by a hair!" As opposed to it being, say, historical.

Which is how I can think of my consciousness being formed as a Keith-and-Donna Deadhead even though, of course, I saw WAY more Brent era, and even more Vince than Keith, actually. I swear, it's true, Brent was always The New Guy. I guess that's how Pigpen folks thought about Keith!

Pigpen = He was on those older albums
Keith = the Dead's real keyboard guy
Brent = The New Guy
Vince = Oh, yeah, him ...

(I've been fleshing out ideas with my husband on some writing that touches on generational consciousness and discourse in this part of the world, so I can pretend this is part of "work" and not just messing around, LOL, cuz it's too hot to think intelligently.)

You should post on that 7/18/90 show. Though of course it won't be as good as 7/18/76, which has Keith and Donna!

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2011-07-18 09:21:12

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 18, 2011 3:02am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

AR, I pledge I will buy at least ten copies of anything you get published about the GD to give to friends and family, so tell your publisher that market demand is huge! Maybe you already have, since I guess you are a pro (making all us amateurs feel inadequate with your word-slingin skills!) writer?

The first live Dead show I saw was Chinese New year 1993 and I drove across the country with the attitude of "Oh man Jerry's gonna die, I gotta see the band before that" - which sounds a bit morbid I suppose when stated in that fashion!

I was pretty well informed about the band, and I was a big fan of the whole beat and psychedelic generation, really into Burroughs and Kesey and HST and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" and so I had a pretty clear awareness of the historical nature of the band, the shocking and amazing fact that the Lightning of the 60s was still out there in the world. I was a fanatical classical musician who stumbled into the band via musician friends and our efforts at collective instrumental improvisation, which started before I had ever heard the GD...am I rambling enough yet?

It still was and is All About the Music though, not the cultural history, although I think the role of psychedelics in creating "group mind" phenomenon can't be overlooked. I honestly believe the GD were the best improvisers in musical history, and the use of LSD to create some kind of deeper synchronization between their brains by imprinting common experiences seems to be relevant to that.

I will post something on 7/18/90 in another thread that I found as neat historical trivia when searching the Old Net.

For me, 1990 represents my "missed it by a hair!" era, since I missed Brent in about the same way that you missed the Wall of Sound.

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 18, 2011 12:09pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

I think it's often true that our "first" GD sound is the one we bond to, so that the other eras never sound quite right.
(Though, biased as I am, I also feel like people traveling to earlier GD years are more easily converted!)
In my case, after only being exposed to GD junk I didn't like (Touch of Grey and Throwing Stones are two reasons I didn't listen to the band for years) - 1968 was the sound I bonded to and my "platonic ideal" of the Dead - so the progression of years after that sounds increasingly wrong, and by the '90s the band sounds Not Right At All. I'm about as fond of the processed big-band sound with heavy keyboards as jerlouvis is.

Of course, there is the "mental adjustment to flawed sound"....since I side more with Althea on the Brent issue, my mental adjustment is ignoring all sounds coming from the keyboards! :)

(I'll add, though, that I agree that Jerry's "old, wise" voice was better for some songs, at least when he was hitting the notes & getting the words. Days Between would just not sound right in 1972....for that matter, Stella Blue didn't sound right in 1972.)

This post was modified by light into ashes on 2011-07-18 19:09:23

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Poster: elbow1126 Date: Jul 18, 2011 12:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Sailor Gave At Least A Try

I think your bias is shared by many around here. I asked this very question a few years ago and as you can see in the responses, people were more likely to gravitate back in time as they were exposed to the earlier sounds. I think everyone except JOTS admitted that having access to the IA and this vast collection at their fingertips changed their listening habits.


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